We went on another field trip with our soccer class this past Monday. This time we went to the headquarters of AS, a Spanish daily newspaper focused completely on sports.
As I’ve said before, Spain really loves their sports. The country has four daily newspapers focused solely on sports, with two based in Madrid and two in Barcelona. The number one sports newspaper, Marca, is actually the most read newspaper in all of Spain. Its readership numbers are even higher than El País, the highest circulated newspaper that is part of the same media group as AS, PRISA. Although officially based in Madrid, AS has satellite offices in a few different locations around Spain where it customizes its coverage a little for the different audience in Barcelona, Bilbao, A Coruña, Sevilla, Valencia, and Zaragoza. All of the versions, however, tend to focus on Real Madrid and fútbol as a whole, with only a few pages devoted to motor sports and basketball and even fewer to others.
It was very cool to go to the headquarters of PRISA, where both AS and El País, two very famous Spanish newspapers, are published. We learned quite a bit about the paper, the writing process, and saw a lot of people working hard. I was actually surprised at how many people were still working when we got there at around 5:30pm, but it turns out that they come into work late and stay very early because they need to make sure they fit in everything newsworthy before the paper goes to print at around 12:30am. Most of the time they still have like 20 pages blank at around 9:00pm and need to fill them all very quickly after the game results come out later that night. That makes total sense when you think about it, but we didn’t realize it beforehand. It turns out that their print deadline can actual be pushed back an hour or so if need be, but like everything in life the consequence is higher costs due to the more delivery trucks needed on the road to get the papers out. They would only make that decision with very good reason.
It turns out AS is struggling with a lot of the same issues most newspapers in the United States are. The advent of the internet brings whole new challenges and questions, and they’re still not sure how to best handle it. Currently, they have a very well-developed website that includes the exact same content as their print edition, usually way earlier, and completely for free. They’re not sure how best to monetize the content, considering paywalls have not worked in Spain. Newspapers in general are struggling with generational differences like younger people not buying newspapers and they joked about the fact that once a reader dies he isn’t really replaced by a younger one because the newer generations get all of their information from the internet and social media.
Though there was a lot of overlap between newspapers in Spain and newspapers back home, it was very interesting to hear about the differences. For example, very few newspapers are actually delivered to homes in Madrid because most people live in apartment buildings. It’s not always easy to get the newspapers inside apartment buildings or to people’s doors because they don’t have individual houses like in the United States. That means that basically all of the circulation figures come from newsstand sales and that the distribution network is completely different. It’s crazy how something we take for granted like mail delivery can be completely different in another country!
Like all of our soccer trips, this one was definitely very eye-opening and interesting. It never ceases to amaze us how important sports are to Europeans — so much so that many of their readers buy both general newspapers and a separate sports paper. Getting an inside perspective on how those newspapers work was great, and we definitely geeked out when we saw the staff members editing videos for the web and the actual newspaper that would be published tomorrow on printing software!